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Going to the Source: Our Employee Source Trips

July 7, 2014

Ryan Houle is a self-professed coffee geek who is partial to darker blends. The Keurig Canada national account manager became a coffee aficionado in his college days and joined the Company not long after graduation. Over 14 years with our Company, he has participated in tastings, toured a roasting facility, and watched as mechanized assembly lines filled packages of coffee bound for store shelves.

Ryan Houle on an Origin Trip, picking coffee cherries

But it wasn’t until he spent a week visiting several Mexican coffee farms that he truly grasped how much effort goes into his daily coffee.

“I never throw away any coffee any more — even if it’s cold — because I know just how much work went into it,” says Houle, one of 13 Keurig Green Mountain employees who traveled to Veracruz in 2012 as part of our annual employee “origin” trips to coffee-growing locations.

Just how demanding is coffee farming? It took Houle and six colleagues three hours to pick 100 pounds of coffee cherries. That might sound like a lot. But by the time these beans are processed, that 100 pounds will yield about 150 of the individual coffee K-Cup® packs used for our Keurig® brewers.

We first began sending employees to coffee farms in 1992, when 11 employees headed to Costa Rica to learn about coffee farming and processing. The trips provide a unique opportunity for people from very different parts of our value chain — from different cultures, geographies, and lifestyles —  to connect on a personal level, learning from each other what it takes to get from “source to cup.”

Over the course of two decades, scores of employees, from all locations and at all levels of employment, have visited farms in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Nicaragua, Peru, Brazil, and, new this year to include our manufacturing supply chain, China.  We cover all trip expenses, including airfare, food, and lodging for the week. In fiscal 2013, we sent over 60 employees to coffee-growing countries.

“Everybody is just so passionate about their products and it was amazing to see. The farmers take so much care and they were so happy to show us their efforts,” Houle says. “Clients always want to talk about price. But since my trip, price is no longer part of the conversation. When I take them through the process and communicate to them the effort that goes into the product, they seem to now understand,” he said. “It’s not just a cup of coffee anymore.”

Take a look at a few highlights from our 2014 employee trip to Costa Rica:
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